In the late 1960s, aged seven, Julian is taken on the perfect beachside holiday to North Cornwall. When American cousins unexpected join the party, however, emotions rapidly reach fever pitch and events spiral dangerously out of control.
Though he has been raised in the shadow of the prison his father runs, and though his parents are neither as normal nor as happy as he supposes, Julian's world view is the sunnily selfish one of boyhood. It is only when he becomes a man - seemingly at easy with love, with his sexuality, with his ghosts - that the traumatic effects of that distant summer rise up to challenge his defiant assertion that he is happy and always has been.
Told in two timeframes, the story begins gently enough yet rapidly comes to assert all the grip of a thriller as we realize that a deep trauma is looming but can't be exactly sure what form it will take. It uses its double-barreled structure to deliver two powerful climaxes for the power of one and to double the emotional rewards for the listener.
A favorite with Patrick Gale's army of fans since it was first published in 2000, Rough Music was the novel that brought Gale's writing to the attention of a much wider public and his first to achieve best-seller status. He freely admits it was written in an attempt to solve the mystery of his parents' enduring marriage and also that it draws on painful memories he retains of the sense of otherness he felt as a gay child yet to understand quite where his difference lay. There is a retrospective to it in that Gale's real life mother would come to be killed by the Alzheimer's disease he imagines laying waste her fictional counterpart.
This is the first time Rough Music has been made available as an audiobook, and it's read here by the author himself, a noted performer on the international festival circuit. You can find out more about the novel and Gale's other work on galewarning.org.
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Gay 'cult' classic read by the author
- Christoph Fischer